Monday, 20 February 2017

A Canada-EU alliance is forming against a Russia-US-UK axis

Simultaneous visits to the EU by Justin Trudeau and Mike Pence reveal the ideological rift that is rapidly tearing the West apart.

If Mike Pence was expecting a warm welcome in Brussels today, he will have been unpleasantly surprised. The arrival of the US vice-president was greeted with protests from citizens on the streets and scowls from European Union lawmakers, in scenes reminiscent of the 2003 fallout from the Iraq War.

The hostility in the air was all the more palpable when compared to the reception of the Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau just three days earlier. The European Parliament had Trudeau-mania, and some lawmakers were even seen being moved to tears by Trudeau's call for EU-Canadian unity, as detailed hilariously by Euractiv's James Crisp on Friday:

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Europe's 2017 elections are turning into referendums on Trump

Feelings of nationalism are running strong in France, but anti-Americanism may be stronger.

Three years ago, when a former investment banker named Emmanuel Macron was appointed as interior minister in the French government, nobody had ever heard of him. 

Today, he has come out of nowhere to second place in the French presidential election. It looks increasingly likely that he will be in a head-to-head with French far-right leader Marine Le Pen in May's second round of voting. More than anything else, there is one element that explains his meteoric rise: he is presenting himself as the anti-Trump.

His candidacy comes at a time when many in France, and indeed the entire European continent, are terrified that the French presidency will be snatched by Le Pen's far-right National Front - a party with anti-Semitic routes from the ashes of the Second World War. Were Le Pen to win, it would not only have implications for France. It would probably mean the collapse of the European Union, or at least its transformation into an irrelevance.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Europeans have been lied to their whole lives. They have three months to learn the truth.

European politicians have never explained to their citizens how dependent they are on America. As the Trump emergency unfolds, many still do not understand the danger they are in.

At the tail end of 2016, as Europeans adjusted to the reality that Donald Trump had won the presidential election, I found myself having two very different conversations in Europe.

One was with my Brussels and Berlin friends from what some might derisively term the 'educated elite'. They were scared, talking about what the result meant for Europe and how things on the 'old continent' were about to change.

Then there was the conversation I found myself having with people I just met, or acquaintances - people who don't follow politics or world events very closely. "What do you think about Trump?" they snickered, as if he was entirely my problem and not theirs. They expected a reaction of, "I'm so embarrassed for my country" or "things are going to be bad in my homeland". I've told them the entire global order is about to be thrown into chaos, starting first here in Europe. They stared back at me in confusion. Surely, Trump is America's problem, not Europe's.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Six things that surprised me about Australia

Happy Australia Day.

I've spent the last month down under, and I just so happen to be departing this country on its national holiday. I'm on a plane now to Bangkok, where I’ll base myself for the next month while travelling around Southeast Asia.

I actually didn’t know this was Australia Day – their version of the Fourth of July - when I booked the ticket. But in the end it didn’t make much difference. From what I observed the holiday doesn’t seem to be a very big deal for Australians, and in fact many people I asked told me they are working today as normal. It was only made a formal public holiday in all states and territories in 1994 (although it had been unofficially observed since 1935). As one Australian told me, throwing in a Mean Girls reference, “the government is always trying to make Australia Day happen. It’s not going to happen”.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

May's Brexit vision depends on the goodwill of Australians

Brexit Britain will cut itself off from Europe and 'turn to the world'. But does the world want them? In Australia, feelings are ambivalent.

This morning in London, Theresa May will make what is probably the most important speech of her political career.

The British people "voted to leave the European Union and embrace the world" she will say, outlining a vision for the UK to completely cut itself off from the EU and instead focus on rebuilding a globally-focused maritime trading empire. The first focus will be on the countries which share a monarch with Britain - Australia, New Zealand and Canada. 

I've been travelling through Australia for the past two weeks as part of a month-long visit, and I've been asking Australians how they feel about being part of Britain's glorious new trading vision. The reaction has largely been bemusement. But more on that later.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

If it comes to US vs China, will Trump make Australia choose a side?

Militarily dependent on America but economically dependent on China, Australia could be the biggest loser in a coming trade war.

I'm in the middle of a three-week visit to Australia, currently on a flight to Brisbane after a fascinating week in Sydney. As I expected, as an American I have spent the week fielding confused and exasperated questions about Donald Trump.

The sentiments have largely echoed what I read in last month's 'Dear America, why did you let us down?' New York Times op-ed by Australian doctor Lisa Pryor. "You may not know us, the people beyond your borders, but we know you," she wrote. "And here we Australians are on the edge of Asia, a small and loyal ally of the United States, caught between our strategic alliance with you and our economic future with China. We feel worried, lucky — and alone."